Person holding a bag on their arm with a missing auto-injector inside

What If Your Epinephrine Auto-Injector Doesn’t Work?

Last updated: September 2022

Years ago, I discovered I was allergic to finned fish and shellfish. I have always carried epinephrine auto-injectors in my purse but haven't needed them until recently. When I was traveling, I had an allergic reaction and needed to use one of my auto-injectors. I made a mental note to ensure I ordered a refill when I came home. I've heard I need to always carry 2 auto-injectors in case 1 doesn't work.

Since I am VERY cautious about avoiding seafood, I wasn't too worried about getting another auto-injector during my trip. I was planning on getting a doctor's appointment when I had time.

Well, you know where this story is going, right?

Confusing and immediate symptoms

I returned from my travels and was working from home. My husband and I both have our own home offices. One day, my husband cooked chicken curry with lentils for lunch. It's not my favorite, but I'll eat it if there isn't anything else around.

The chicken curry seemed extremely spicy, and I didn't finish my dish. In fact, it was so spicy that I had a small scoop of vanilla ice cream afterward.

I suddenly started to feel nauseous. I thought that was weird and wondered if the food was just too spicy for me to handle. Well, my symptoms continued to worsen. I had taken several antacids, but the nausea was worsening. So I took some liquid upset stomach medicine. That didn't help either.

Stuck with a faulty epinephrine auto-injector

I wondered why I was nauseous all of a sudden after eating lunch. Then I started to notice other symptoms, and it dawned on me...I had an allergic reaction!

Once I realized it, I dove for my purse to get my epinephrine auto-injector. I laid down on the couch and pulled the cap off the pen. My husband's eyes were wide as he said, "What do I do?!" He was starting to panic, so I knew I needed to stay calm.

I jabbed my thigh with epinephrine. But nothing happened. I tried the injection again and again...

Nothing.

I remembered reading articles where people have said that their epinephrine auto-injector "misfired." Is that what was happening? I told my husband to take me to the emergency room!

Rushing to the hospital

The E.R. staff quickly took me back to a room. The E.R. doctor came flying down the hall and into my room, and my husband told the doctor that my epinephrine auto-injector didn't work. He explained that I was allergic to seafood, but I had curry for lunch, and we didn't know what was causing the reaction.

The E.R. doctor ordered epinephrine, and the nurse quickly injected me. The E.R. doctor told me to call the drug company and get a replacement for my faulty epinephrine pen because he knows that epinephrine auto-injectors are expensive!

Getting faulty auto-injectors replaced

Another nurse came into my room while the doctor explained this to me, and she said, "What? You can just call the company and get new auto-injectors?" I wondered the same thing.

4 hours later, when I was discharged from the hospital, my husband drove straight to the pharmacy to get my new epinephrine auto-injector (and chocolate). Come to think of it; I think I deserved flowers too!

It's important to have an extra auto-injector

Let my story be a warning if you delay refilling your auto-injectors. I didn't think my auto-injector would be defective-that only happened to other people, not me! But what if it happens to you? Do you have an extra auto-injector?

P.S. I also had a bruised thigh from jabbing myself with the faulty epinephrine auto-injector. That definitely deserves flowers!

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